Why Are We Making It Harder for Young People to Vote?

Did you know that today is the 41st anniversary of the day that President Richard M. Nixon signed a law to reduce the legal voting age to 18 in all elections?

The law was declared unconstitutional, but the activism from young people around the Vietnam War created a climate that ultimately forced the United States to amend the Constitution for the 26th time in order to settle the dispute once and for all.

Well, 41 years later, most states in America are passing laws to make it harder for young people to vote. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 37 states considered some form of voter ID law this year and some states, like Florida and Maine, are restricting early voting or same day registration. Voter ID laws were enacted in Texas, Kansas, Alabama, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Tennessee this year.

All of these laws disproportionately impact young people. One in five young voters do not have a driver’s license, which is the most common form of accepted photo ID for voting.  That’s 20 percent!  In addition, according to Demos, “any student not attending a public university will be unable to use their student ID to vote.”

Forty-one years ago we were expanding the electorate. We finally fully enfranchised African Americans and then we decided that 18, 19 and 20 year olds deserved the right to vote because we recognized that asking them to die for a country they couldn’t participate in as full citizens was simply wrong.

My, how times have changed!

UPDATE 6/23: North Carolina Governor Perdue vetoed a voter ID bill, saying:

“The right to choose our leaders is among the most precious freedoms we have – both as Americans and North Carolinians. North Carolinians who are eligible to vote have a constitutionally guaranteed right to cast their ballots, and no one should put up obstacles to citizens exercising that right.”